Coincidentally, I have run into two individuals within the last week that are grappling with what I went through some years back and which I have discussed frequently on my blog, Michael-in-Norfolk. It is also a topic addressed with somewhat surprising sensitivity in the Argentine soap "Botineras" in the context of soccer star Manuel's (played by Christian Sancho, pictured above) efforts to come to terms with his sexual orientation, the fall out it brings down on his his wife and his two children.
As in the soap, these individuals that I met are attempting to deal with coming out as gay in mid life after many years of being in a marriage to a woman and fathering children. Much as I once was, these individuals are racked with an over powering since of guilt, feelings that they have "failed" their families, and deep emotional distress. They are also being confronted with spouses who accuse them of "ruining their lives".
So who are the victims in these scenarios? The straight spouse who faces the collapse of his/her marriage? The children who find themselves in the midst of a divorce that often turns nasty through the homophobia of judges and opposing divorce attorneys? The formerly closeted gays grappling with the inability to keep playing an actor-like role? Or are all of them victims? Personally, I have come to the conclusion that the correct answer is all of them.
So who/what then is responsible for these calamities? For me, some years later after professional therapy and much soul searching, the answer is easy. Religious denominations like the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention that engage in endless homophobic religious brain-washing. Professional Christians and ex-gay charlatans like those at NARTH, Love Wins Out, and similar "ministries" who enrich themselves marketing anti-gay untruths and help keep anti-gay bigotry alive and well. Then, of course, there are the spineless politicians and elected officials who continue to allow religious-based discrimination to infect the civil laws. It's a cycle that seems to keep on recycling. Just today Wayne Besen exposed yet another ex-gay fraud demonstrating the hypocrisy of these "cure" programs.
Regardless of the causation, what does one say to these individuals who are torturing themselves, beating themselves up, and perhaps even contemplating suicide (one of the individuals truly worries me)? Obviously, suggesting that they get professional help as they try to deal with their circumstances is mandatory. In addition, I believe that it is extremely important for those of us who have made the journey to stress to them that they have done nothing wrong. Indeed, their error was trying to do everything "right" as it was indoctrinated into them. If they are guilty of anything, it is of understandingly believing the untruths disseminated to them by their churches, in some instances their families, and the larger intolerant society.
In our activism and other activities, we need to keep in mind individuals like those I've met this past week. We need to give them our friendship and keep giving them the message that they can survive the process no matter how dark the future may seem to them at times.